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09 DECEMBER 2008

The role of information in transforming society (in 14th Century England)

"The Medieval Church occupied much of the space now taken by the nation state. It administered education and healthcare, undertook great public projects, managed large enterprises and had its own systems of taxation and justice. It saw people through life from entry to exit. Like any over–stretched organization, the Church really wanted passive acquiescence from its membership rather than participatory enthusiasm. The Bible was a sort of manifesto commitment that the Church reserved the right to interpret, promising not better public services or lower taxes but eternal life. Instead of having to finance a City Academy, how about a new Lady Chapel? Instead of a seat on a red leather bench, you got a corporate box in the kingdom of heaven.

[John] Wyclif and his friends did not approve. They thought the public deserved the news direct, the good news that is – the Vulgate. Of course, when the good book was painstakingly hand–written and in Latin, this made it practically impossible to read yourself. So Wyclif and his associates got translating. If God could be made to speak English, the English might be better made to hear him. This was an argument about the role of information in transforming society."
(Adrian Monck, February 11, 2007)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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